Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s plans to reform and reposition his country in the region have taken an unexpected turn. His decision to restore diplomatic ties with Iran, a deal brokered by China, has far going consequences in the Middle East. It is also a clear message to Washington that under Joe Biden, America no longer plays any role of importance in the region.
By Arthur Blok
Like the case with other important reforms introduced by the Saudi Crown Prince, the historic agreement between the region's largest Sunni and Shia power blocks did not get the attention deserved in the Western mainstream media.
Nobody saw it coming, and Western analysts seem to have difficulty analysing it, which makes the signing extra interesting.
There is more.
Barely 24 hours before the Tehran-Riyadh rapprochement was made official, various American news outlets reported that Saudi Arabia had offered to normalise relations with Israel in exchange for some concessions from the United States. Very interesting developments, to say the least.
The two nations pledged to reopen their embassies and agreed to begin cooperating in areas such as security and trade. The rivalry between the two countries, a symbol of the broader tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, has been a key feature of politics and conflict in the Middle East.
In essence, the deal ends years of mutual animosity, suspected attacks and espionage between the two Islamic rivals. In addition, it represents Beijing’s first adventure into Middle East mediation, an area that, for the past few decades, was primarily occupied by Washington.
It became once again evident to the world that under Biden, America is a nation in decline, both internally and on the world stage. The incompetence of the Biden Administration is visible in all major foreign dossiers, including the Russian-Ukrainian crisis.
Beijing now fills the international void created by Biden’s absence: the Pax Americana is something of the past in a more multipolar world.
The successful Chinese mediation looks like a gift from the two Islamic nations to Beijing. Who is an important client for both countries in purchasing commodities. At the same time, it is an indirect message to Washington that they are no longer needed in solving long-lasting and complicated diplomatic disputes.
Saudi Embassy Tehran
Saudi Arabia broke off relations after Iranians stormed the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran in 2016 in protest against the execution of a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric. The embassy will soon be reopened.
A day before the Iranian announcement, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) suddenly announced increased aviation cooperation with Iran. Last year, the pragmatic leaders of the UAE already reopened its embassy in Tehran, which closed at the time of the rupture in Saudi-Iranian diplomatic relations.
Whether fixing ties with Iran or reaching out to Israel, Mohammed bin Salman has one top priority: ensuring his multi-trillion-dollar vision to transform Saudi Arabia stays on track. So far, everything the famous young Crown Prince promised his people is being enacted.
That is an accomplishment to be proud of in a region where nothing is what it seems.
To further reform Saudi Arabia’s economy, society, and place in the region, stability is a virtue. In that perspective, Bin Salman’s efforts to shield his country from any possible escalation with Iran or Israel make perfect sense.
It offsets security risks for Saudi Arabia and Iran and positively influences the situation in Yemen and Lebanon. The two countries were entangled in complicated proxy wars in the past decennia.
In a nutshell, Saudi Arabia launched an intervention in Yemen to restore a government overthrown by Iranian allies. In Lebanon, the Saudi government forced the resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister in 2017, a move aimed at containing Hezbollah, an Iranian ally.
The land of the Cedar has been embattled ever since.
For Iran, the deal was also crucial. It felt isolated in the region and badly needed good news to sell to its people. Tehran saw increased pressure from the United States and Israel on the nuclear issue, and the international sanctions on the regime came at a high price.
By signing this deal, the Saudi government is less apt to support a possible American-Israeli strike on Iran regarding the nuclear issue. That does not mean it is completely off the table, but it is a nice bonus for the embattled regime in Tehran.
Saudi Arabia has been talking to Iran through Iraq for over a year. In that light, the deal does not come entirely out of the blue; China’s central role in the situation is unexpected. But in light of recent Chinese efforts to meddle in the Russian-Ukrainian war, it makes perfect sense.
This a good moment for reflection in Washington, which has largely ignored the Middle East since Biden came to power. The last success in the region dates back to the previous Administration of Donald Trump, who secured the Abraham Accords in August 2020.
The Accords normalised the relationship between Israel and the UAE, the first public normalisation of relations between an Arab country and Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. Soon after, Bahrein followed suit; in the same period, Sudan and Morocco established diplomatic ties with the Israelis.
Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Bin Salman is taking the lead in the Middle East by signing an agreement with Iran and allegedly opting for the normalisation of the relationship with Israel. Using China as a broker is a smart strategic move that triggers the attention of Washington. Not only a benefit to the Saudis but also crucial for stability in the region as a whole.
There is great news in the future.
💜 Angel NicGillicuddy